something else, to munch on while you're stirring.
short grain brown rice
pancetta, chopped into matchsticks
fresh thyme, picked from its stems
1 small, or 1/2 large, onion, chopped finely
red pepper flakes
butternut squash, in 1" cubes
grated parmesan cheese
copious amounts black pepper
In This Recipe
You'll want to start by heating your oven to 350 degrees, putting your broth on the back burner, where it can heat up, and pouring yourself a glass of wine, if you are at all inclined to drink a glass of wine while you cook. Then, get out your "something else" and go ahead and have a snack. You'll need the energy; you have a lot of stirring ahead.
When the oven has preheated to 350 degrees, toss your squash cubes in oil (just to coat) and a little salt. Put them on a baking tray in the oven, and set a timer for 30 minutes so you can check them for doneness. You're looking for them to be soft, as they will be added to the risotto at the very end. The reason for this is that, if cooked with the rice, they would bread down completely.
Heat the large, heavy bottomed pot in which you will make your risotto, pour in a glug of oil and add the pancetta. Turn the heat to medium-low, and allow the fat to render. While this is happening, busy yourself picking thyme leaves from the stems.
When the fat has rendered from the pancetta, add your onion, half of your thyme leaves, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Stir to make sure all the onions are glistening with oil; if not, add a little more. Allow the onions to sweat and become translucent.
Add the rice, stirring to make sure all the grains get toasted against the hot pot. When you feel good about this, add the wine. Stir.
Here is where this recipe differs from a traditional risotto: once you've added the wine and let that bubble away, you can begin to add the broth in much larger amounts than with a traditional risotto. And, because the brown rice takes at least an hour to cook, if you make sure it's completely covered by the broth, you can leave it bubbling on a low heat and walk away.
At this point, I went and grabbed my computer and set it up on top of the refrigerator so I could watch Downtown Abbey on Netflix instant. Then, I gave the rice a stir, added more broth, and grated my cheese. Gave the rice a stir, picked more thyme off it's stems, and watched some TV. I was worried that the rice wouldn't get starchy/creamy enough, but when I began treating it like a risotto in the last quarter of it's cooking time--by which I mean, stirring constantly for the last 20 minutes it was on the stove--that seemed to be enough attention to make it nice and creamy.
When the risotto has reached your desired consistancy, test for seasonings, add the squash, the rest of the thyme, the parmesan, and the black pepper, and enjoy.